Migraine headaches can be debilitating. Whereas regular headaches are caused by tension that results in moderate pain, a migraine includes both vascular and nerve dysfunction, and the pain tends to be severe. Migraines occur as a result of a chain reaction: blood vessels dilate and overfill with blood, which causes the surrounding nerves to stretch. This in turn causes the nerves to become irritated and to release inflammatory chemicals, which results in extreme pain.
The Definition of a Migraine
Migraines consist of a pulsating pain on one side of the head. They generally last from 4 hours to 3 days. Migraine headaches are often preceded for hours or days by warning signs. These may include:
- altered visual perception called “auras”
- stiff neck muscles
- altered senses of taste, touch, or smell
- feeling tired or depressed
- feeling euphoric
- numbness or tingling of the face
- food cravings
Once a migraine has begun, symptoms may include:
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells
- Blurred vision
- Clammy hands and feet
After a migraine is over, individuals have reported feeling either drained or euphoric.
Common Migraine Triggers
There are many outside forces that can trigger a migraine. They vary among individuals, but here is a list of the most commonly reported triggers:
- Aspartame and Sucralose (artificial sweeteners, diet drinks, sugarless gum)
- Caffeine withdrawal or too much caffeine
- Emotional stress
- Lack of sleep
- Menstruation or menopause
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Nitrates (a preservative in some meats)
- Pain medication overuse
- Physical stress (overdoing exercise)
- Pulsating lights, loud noises
- Red wine or other alcohol
- Skipping meals
- Tyramine (in chocolate, some cheeses, fava beans, sausage, smoked fish, soy and yogurt)
- Anti-Migraine Medications Can Also Provoke Migraines
Many headache medications, including those specifically for migraine, contain caffeine. There is a paradox here: caffeine can both cause and relieve a headache. However, if you take caffeine’s addictive quality into consideration, maybe it isn’t such a mystery after all. When caffeine addiction is the underlying cause of migraine, then providing the body the substance it craves will stop the withdrawal.
The Caffeine-Migraine Connection
So why not just keep dosing yourself with caffeine? The problem is twofold: first, it’s difficult to get the dose just right. Secondly, caffeine appears to sensitize the brain to the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that dilates the blood vessels of the head and neck. The more caffeine you eat and drink, the more likely your headaches will increase in severity and frequency. Migraine sufferers would do well to gradually taper off caffeine use (10% less each day) and see whether being absolutely caffeine-free helps put an end to your debilitating headaches.
Chiropractic Offers Drug-Free Migraine Headache Pain Relief
A randomized control study showed that chiropractic care reduces both the frequency and the severity of migraine headaches. Through chiropractic adjustments, the nervous system interference that causes many types of pain will be alleviated.